EDMONTON – Even though he's the youngest player making himself available for Thursday night's Canadian Premier League U SPORTS draft, MacEwan Griffins men's soccer midfielder/forward Ali Yildiz has a legitimate shot at being one of the 16 selections made by the loop's eight teams.
Coming off his rookie Canada West season, Yildiz was named as one of the top 40 prospects to watch in a pre-draft article at canpl.ca.
Here's an excerpt:
The 17-year-old is the youngest eligible player in the draft, and he's already caught the eye of at least one CPL team. Yildiz appeared on the bench for FC Edmonton in a CPL game this past season on a Canadian Developmental Contract, having earned the club's attention from strong performances at BTB Soccer Academy in Edmonton. Yildiz has excellent potential and he's very strong in possession, though he'll need to add strength to make an impact at the professional level.
As the only 2004-born player in the draft, Yildiz played the entire 2021 Canada West season as a 17-year-old, proving he could hold his own against older players.
"We found a spot for him in the front three and changed our strategy and game model to get him on the pitch because he is that valuable to us," said MacEwan head coach Adam Loga. "Every game he got better and in the last half was arguably one of our most valuable (players)."
Yildiz was especially hot down the stretch with a goal and two assists in his final four regular season games and was a big reason why the Griffins achieve the program's first Canada West playoff berth.
"Ali has such a bright future," said Loga. "I think anyone would be lucky to have him. I know he's been with the FC Edmonton Academy for a long time and was under a developmental contract last year, so he's not unfamiliar to the (CPL) standard.
"I think he's improved and developed tremendously over the last few months with us, playing in the men's game, so I think he's got a good chance. I wish him and all the lads the best. They had a great season, we had a great season and I think it's good timing a great opportunity for them to potentially make the next jump."
Also up for selection are Joseph Abrahart, Abass Ajibade, Michael Enes, Stefan Gajic, Michael Ho, Alvin Mazaheri, Issac Milambo, Mason Perras and Rakan Yassin.
A total of 165 players across the U SPORTS ranks are available, meaning just a handful will get picked. Those that don't could receive tryout invites anyway.
Meanwhile, the Griffins are back training together again, regularly practicing at the Edmonton Scottish Dome, preparing to hold exhibition matches against various local Edmonton post-secondary institutions this winter as they gear up for the 2022 Canada West season next fall.
"We're still on the pitch together five or six times a week here, getting some friendlies in," said Loga. "Hopefully we can maintain those, just given the (uncertainty) of COVID right now. But we're back together, we're happy to be back. It's a great buzz and vibe to the group, looking at taking that next step forward."